enhanced meetings can be a wonderful thing when the technology drives
attendee engagement and learning enablement. Doing more with less and
increasing the attendees’ return on registration, travel, and lodging
investment (ROI) serves everyone. However, when technology becomes the
controller and the audience becomes the controlled, the value of
technology quickly diminishes.
research has exposed the fact that networking first and education
second, are the primary reasons for live meeting attendance.
Additionally this research, conducted across a wide assortment of trade
associations and professional societies, has revealed the yearly
sustainable real-dollar value of networking to be worth just over $4,000
in reference to annual membership. Yet, the conventional wisdom among
meetings industry publications is that the networking-capable number of
attendees is decreasing. This could offer possible proof that the art of
social contact is disappearing.
drawbacks of technology can be many. Of the simplest meeting technology
is PowerPoint. Unfortunately, this helpful software also enables
monotone and boring presentations. It is easy for a presenter to get
caught up in unsocial behavior; reading their bullet points and
forgetting to engage the audience through voice modulation, story
telling, and audience participation. This mechanical kind of
presentation loses social contact
the perspective of audience members, technology driven meetings and
presentations can easily facilitate risk avoidance by eliminating the
need for live social contact. The use of Twitter and Twitter based
application software during a live meeting can be a useful novelty
however this also allows audience members to avoid expressing and
defending a particular position or perspective on an issue. Much of the
technology for meetings allows for anonymous participation, which is not
always a good thing because it also minimizes social contact.
organizers that incorporate social networking prior to meetings can help
their attendees to make live connections at meetings. Twitter postings,
Facebook pages and groups, and Linkedin groups offer planners free cyber
social contact enablement conduits. Meeting software, such as Certain
Software, offers planners amazing integration—elements from RFPs to
attendee registration to creative flexibility in developing pre-meeting
special interest groups are available.
meeting planners that truly desire to help their meeting attendees
receive the maximum ROI from their attendance, consider facilitating
quality social contact pre-meeting, throughout the meeting, and
up a Twitter account for your meeting. Send an email invitation to
constituents asking them to become followers. Then tweet weekly with
new information about the meeting.
up a meeting group at either Facebook or Linkedin. Email invitations
asking constituents to join the group. About six months before the
meeting, start posting discussion questions weekly designed to
elicit discussion among members. Closer in, start posting individual
notices about each specific activity. Just before the meeting invite
all the “cyber” buddies to an “organization hosted”
pre-meeting live networking gathering.
to attendee badges some sort of (attendee approved) interesting
information about that attendee that will cause others to ask
EVERY presenter, including the keynoter, to add an element of
networking driven audience participation to their program. While
this is generally much easier for professional speakers to achieve,
it is perfectly acceptable to expect “invited” industry speakers
to comply. Inexperienced presenters can always employ the “round
table” question discussion, regardless of the room setup.
the first night cocktail welcoming event, employ a networking game.
The best are the games where everyone gets a sheet with a list of
questions that they have to get the answers from other attendees.
One answer per attendee please. If you have GREAT door prizes, most
everyone will participate.
reasonable about the meeting schedule. This is the area most
susceptible to planner sabotage of networking possibilities. Breaks
between sessions, depending on the distance attendees must walk,
need to be closer to 30 minutes than the typical 5-15 minutes.
meals will cause much more networking possibilities than will
“served or platted” meals.
served-meal events, try assigned seating. There are a number of
“seating formulas” that will work, yet the important element is
a diversity of meal mates at each table. Sure it is a bit of work,
but this causes quite a bit of interaction among attendees from
trying to find their seat to meal discussions.
organizations use the buddy/mentor system very successfully. This is
where every first time attendee is assigned a buddy/mentor. The
buddy/mentor is responsible to take this new person around to all
his or her social networks and effectively guide the person through
the meeting maze. Also the buddy/mentor does some post-meeting
follow up to see that the first-timer actually implements new skills
learned at the meeting.
meeting interaction can be easily facilitated through the social
networking activities mentioned above. The most effective will be
centered on discussions and activities encouraging implementation of
the new skills learned and follow up with new persons met.
2010-2014 Ed Rigsbee
Rigsbee, CAE, CSP, author of The ROI of Membership, has been helping organizations
around the globe to improve their ROI through profitable strategic
alliances and effective business relationships for a quarter-century. He is the author of
three books on alliance relationships and nearly 2,000 published
business and relationship articles. Ed is a 25+ year member of the
National Speakers Association, holds membership with ASAE, and has
presented at national meetings for MPI, PCMA, Affordable Meetings, and
numerous meeting planner summit events. Ed is also the CEO of a public
non-profit charity and produces educational events for professional
speakers. Ed resides in the Los Angeles area. You may contact Ed through www.Rigsbee.com.